High School Rebels: Black Power, Education, and Youth Politics in the Motor City, 1966-1973
Dara Walker

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



Pennsylvania State University

Primary Discipline

The Black Power era saw thousands of Black adolescent activists across the country respond to racist curricula and white vigilante violence by leading walkouts and building takeovers. While these explosive moments have yielded dozens of social movement studies, the political study, intellectual labor, and mundane experiences of adolescent development that shaped this youth-led political organizing has received little scholarly attention. Using archival research and oral history interviews, High School Rebels: Black Power, Education, and Youth Politics in the Motor City, 1966-1973 bridges Black Power studies and the History of Education to reveal the central role of formal and informal education in the development of Black youth politics, Black youth’s political maturity, and the Black Power movement. My local study of Detroit’s tradition of Black high school organizing marshals the analytical tools of social history, Black Feminist Thought, and the history of youth to explore the personal histories and political ideas of Black teenagers who crafted liberatory theories of education in an urban context. The book shifts the focus from fists in Black leather gloves and guns to the quotidian moments of adolescent life and the intergenerational study spaces formed by Black adolescents, autoworkers, and welfare rights activists. This approach encourages historians to examine how age, along with gender, race, and class, shaped the limits and possibilities of high school students’ politics and activism. Methodologically, this social and intellectual history argues for rigorous engagement with age as a category of historical analysis in histories of education and postwar U.S. social movements.
About Dara Walker
Dara Walker is an Assistant Professor of African American Studies, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and History at the Pennsylvania State University. She received her B.S. in African American Studies from Eastern Michigan University in 2009 as Ronald E. McNair Scholar and a M.A. in Pan-African Studies from Syracuse University in 2011. She earned a PhD in History from Rutgers University in 2018. Her research and teaching interests include African American history, urban history, 20th century U.S. history, History of Education, and the history of childhood and youth. Dr. Walker is currently writing her book manuscript, High School Rebels: Black Power, Education, and Youth Politics in the Motor City, 1966-1973, which examines the role of Detroit’s high school organizing tradition in the development of Black Power politics. Her research has been funded by the Ford Foundation’s Dissertation Fellowship, the Walter P. Reuther Library’s Albert Shanker Fellowship for Research in Education, and the Richards Civil War Era Center at the Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Walker has presented her research at several national and international conferences, including the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), the American Historical Association (AHA), and the Society for the History of Children and Youth. In addition to her research, teaching, and mentoring, Dr. Walker was a regular contributor to Black Perspectives, the blog site for the African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS) and is a founding member of the Penn State Consortium of Social Movements and Education Research and Practice.

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